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Ask Fodor’s: Can I See Rome’s Top Sights in 5 Hours?

Our column this week features a question submitted by @davis63 via Twitter:

Is it feasible to see the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona (for lunch) in 4-1/2 to 5 hours?

You should definitely be able to see Rome's top sights in four or five hours. Here are some tips and suggestions:

I'd suggest starting at the Colosseum and then working your way west. The longest line in the city, aside from at the Vatican, is here, so I strongly recommend booking your ticket online ahead of time so you can skip the lines. The ticket also includes the Palatine Hill and the Forum, but even if you don't have time for those, I think avoiding the lines makes it worth it. Keep in mind the Colosseum can get very crowded inside (even though it's huge) so try to get an early start. The Colosseum opens at 8:30 a.m. every day of the year, except Christmas and New Year's.

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Expect to spend an hour inside the Colosseum. And here's a photo tip: if you want to get your picture taken with one of the “gladiators” that hang around the entrance and exit, it's worth noting that they'll insist on a €5, €10, or more. Make sure you set the price beforehand to avoid any issues.

From the Colosseum, head to the Trevi Fountain; it's about a 15-minute taxi ride, a 20-minute walk, or you can take the metro. If you're going to take the metro for any part of the itinerary, this is the place to do it because others sites are more accessible on foot. The Colosseo Metro station, on the Metro B line, is right across from the Colosseum. Take that to the Termini station and switch to Metro A. Take this to the Barberini station. From the station, it's a seven-minute walk to the Trevi Fountain. There are many signs around Rome directing people to the major sights, so keep an eye out for those when navigating the city.

The Trevi Fountain is one of Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Baroque masterpieces, and throwing a coin into the fountain is said to ensure a return trip to the city. Some say that the “right” way to do it is to toss the coin with your right hand, over your left shoulder, with your back to the fountain. It's also said that one coin means you’ll return to Rome; two means you’ll return and fall in love; three means you’ll return, find love, and marry. The fountain grosses some €600,000 a year, and aside from funds pilfered by opportunists who fish coins from the water, the money goes to charity.

From the Trevi Fountain it's about a 10-minute walk to the Pantheon, the grandest and best preserved building still standing from ancient Rome. Spend some time marveling at the architectural harmony of the immense edifice and gaze up through the dome to the heavens.

The lovely Piazza Navona, Rome's most glorious piazza, is just a few blocks west of the Pantheon. The Piazza Navona has Bernini sculptures, three gorgeous fountains, the magnificent Baroque Sant’Agnese in Agone church, and, of course, the excitement of so many people milling about. The piazza is lined with cafes if you want to be in the thick of things, but keep in mind that while the piazza is undoubtedly gorgeous and atmospheric, you'll find better (and cheaper) food on surrounding streets. Just around the corner from Piazza Navona, Cul de Sac, one of the oldest wine bars in the city, serves excellent Mediterranean food, including a vast assortment of Italian meats and cheeses—but the outside tables fill up fast. For more options check out the Fodor's Rome restaurant recommendations. —Caroline Trefler, Senior Editor, Cities and Culture (Follow her on Twitter: @CTrefler)

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